It’s Freddie time + The shortlist problem (Long Read)

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The new temporary era of Freddie Ljungberg starts today and I have to be absolutely honest… I am VERY excited.

He’s making smart moves, Per Mertesacker is his assistant, he might be bringing Gilberto in for a helping hand, and he told the team he was all about putting smiles back on the faces of players.

Freddie has gone on the record as saying he thinks players are happier when they’re playing exciting football, we know he was raised on some of most explosive attacking football the world has ever seen, so maybe we’re about to witness Wengerball 2.0.

He has the opportunity to make a claim for the job, to do well, he’s going to have thread the needle of some very tricky situations with the players and the football. Here are some items he’ll be looking to clarify.

The Xhaka thing:

There will be a blank slate for Granit Xhaka. It’ll be very interesting to see how a man with a more attacking vision sees the Swiss. A lot of the ‘he’s highly rated from within’ leaves me aghast. It doesn’t make sense that a player with so little discipline and so many errors in his game could be seen as this absolute essential to the team… but I guess we’ll find out. If he’s in the side, what is he doing and how are they going to protect the team against his bad habits?


Freddie likes high octane pressing. So did Wenger and Emery. No one can keep it going for longer than 3 games. How will Freddie discipline the team to press consistently, or at least in strategic moments during the game? There are big question marks as to whether his first-team forwards are even capable of this. Is Auba going to turn into that sort of player at 29? Does Lacazette have the stamina to do that? Or might the coach pull a wild card and start his younger players. He’s far more likely to get the sort of behaviour he wants our of Saka and Martinelli.


Our very one-footed wide man has looked pretty poor most of the season. It’s hard to move into a tough situation and perform and he certainly hasn’t managed to raise his game. He looks shot of all confidence, but maybe a new coach with a more exciting vision could spark something in him that we haven’t seen yet. He’s certainly not a bad player. If Conte could get Victor Moses firing, then there is hope for Pepe.


Our short game from the keeper has been slow, ineffective and quite frankly embarrassing. We struggle to transition out of defence most of the time, then if the ball makes into midfield, the gaps between the attack are monstrous. Freddie is going to have to get in the weeds with some real basics here, because we don’t move the ball through the phases with any sort of consistency. How is Freddie going to look at this problem, will he go more direct? Will he shorten the passing lanes? Will he bin the short passes out the back? I’m very interested to see how quickly he can impact the way we move the ball. I’m also hoping that we start playing through the middle again with some exciting one-touch combination passing.

The same in reverse. We often have no real shape when we’re hit on the counter-attack or even just under sustained pressure. Midfield is our biggest problem, the two deepest players, whoever they are, offer very little protection to the defence, either by taking up positions that are too deep, or just not being present in the right places. We do not defend as a unit, it’s a lot to expect in a few games, but it’d be nice to see some thinking go into action there.

It’s not really worth hitting you with the management stuff because it’s all very early stages, but I think one thing is clear from listening to Josh K, they will be overjoyed if Freddie can take things until the end of the season. Better choices will be on the market then and Edu, Huss, Raul and Vinnai can take their time over a decision.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there really is no plan on the manager and we’re accruing a shortlist now because no one was thinking about exiting Emery this season. A staggering oversight when you consider that a proper club would have booted Emery in the summer. The football was quite clearly going nowhere, all the data pointed to total regression, and behind the scenes things were just as dire. Zero control. The bus driver running team motivation talks perfectly captured the managers’ approach. My point here, even if you truly believed in miracles, you’d at least get a backup list of names just in case.

The more worrying point for me about the shortlist that’s emerging is there’s no rhyme or reason to the candidates that we’re looking at. Nuno is a counter-attacking specialist that doesn’t believe in pointless possession. Allegri is the ultimate ‘get the job done’ pragmatist that builds systems around the tools he has at his disposal. Brendan Rodgers is a high pressing possession-based practitioner. Arteta will be Manchester City like entertaining possession-based attacking football. There’s no theme here, which likely means Edu doesn’t have a plan that he’s executing against.

If the club doesn’t know what it wants to be, how are they judging candidates? Your strategy can’t be a manager, because if that’s the case, your costs are huge every time you hire in a new philosophy. Chelsea, up until lately, always had deeply pragmatic managers that played a certain way. AVB, Conte, Mourinho are all cut from the same cloth. Barcelona always hire in specialists in of attacking based possession football because that’s their DNA, but beyond that, those values Cruyff instilled give the club stability. Every layer of the club believes the same thing. Every coach plays the same way. The scouting network knows what they are looking for. The fitness coaches know how to plan.

There’s a lot of talk about The Arsenal Way and whether that exists. It doesn’t. Edu is supposed to define what that is so we can build out talent that maps to the vision. My view is we should be a youthful execution of high octane pressing and intelligent possession-based football. We should be the most exciting team to watch in the world. We will never compete at the higher levels for elite adult talent, so we’ll have to grow it, or attract players like Martinelli and Guendouzi and ask them to give the first part of their careers to Arsenal. Young players need minutes and elite coaching. If we set a clear vision, it’d give clear parameters on the type of coach we need. It wouldn also focus what you’re looking for.

  • Someone open to a longer-term project
  • A manager happy to work on a budget
  • Someone who can work with data analysts and support staff
  • A person that can galvanise, not divide a backroom and a squad
  • A clear communicator
  • Someone that loves coaching
  • Has a clear-eyed vision of where the game is going and how to keep up
  • Someone with patience, because they’d be working with younger kids
  • Someone with examples of how they’ve developed players
  • A vision of how to implement a pressing regime
  • A view of football that’s exciting

It would dictate the sort of fitness approach we’d need, it’d give the scouts a very clear brief for who and where they should be looking for talent, and it’d be a clear message to the fans… this project is not for now, we are building out Arsenal to be a Champions League final four outfit in 5 years. Bear with us, this is going to be spectacular.

The ‘cast the net wide’ and see what we like approach isn’t purposeful. When you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can be easily seduced by cheap Powerpoint presentations, great Wikipedia pages, and the sweet charms of Raul who can definitely vouch. We are better than that. I hope as the club push on in this process they get a little more specific about what they want, because a warm body won’t cut it. Not for the next hire.

One managerial story that I do find amusing is the Brendan Rodgers one. We all know he’d be desperate to move to a top club again. He’s doing a great job at Leicester, a club I feel is his level… but my point of raising this particular story is that he’s on the back page of one of the red tops with a headline alluding to Arsenal being his dream job. That is poor judgement to let anyone go off the record for you in such a blatant way. I wonder if that’ll impact the focus of his players, it looks very much like the mistake Marco Silva made when he was desperate for the Everton job despite being under contract at Watford. Didn’t end well there. Confidence is fragile at a football club, if the players think you’re purring over another job, things can go south very quickly.

Anyway, a huge day for Freddie, Per Mertesacker and the fans. I cannot wait to see what the sexiest man in management has to offer us.

Right, jump into our podcast before the game, it’s a cracker. We talk about Raul, managers, problems with Emery and our favourite targets. You can bypass the cost by giving it a 5* in iTunes.

See you in the comments!

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1,238 Responses to “It’s Freddie time + The shortlist problem (Long Read)”

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  1. Tassos from Greece

    You don’t have to follow this duo, the short and the tall, of the new coaches of Arsenal in order to understand that they are not the right people to turn things around.
    1. Again they used Xhaka, who very recently disrespected the Arsenal supporters by using swear words such as f_ _ _ you. Why?
    2. They replaced an underperforming (true) Sokratis with a worse CB Mustafi, who has cost Arsenal dearly in the recent past. Why?
    3. Ozil, the only thing he knows very well is to pile up money (350000 pounds a week!!) like Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol ,, without helping and playing for the team on the pitch, why do they use him?
    4. We bought Tierney as a real talent to fill the left back position and instead they have condemned him to warm the bench. Why?
    5. They spent 72 million pounds on Pepe (the first goal scorer of the French League) a right winger and they let him rot by not using him at all. Why?
    6. Torreira, in another decent team, would be irreplaceable as a MD but in Arsenal, according to the duo rubbish, is junk. Why?
    7. In the starting lineup of today’s match, once again , they selected 7 defenders. Why?
    8. Arsenal F.C. urgently need a proper, experienced coach if they don’t want to be humiliated continuously.

  2. TR7

    Ornstein: While there is no specific period for Ljungberg’s interim role and he should not be completely discounted as a full-time option, the expectation is that the job will go to an external candidate.

    The Athletic understands Arsenal have priority names and the initial focus is on candidates who are immediately available. That would point towards the likes of Allegri, Pochettino, while some believe Arteta would fall into the same category if he asked to leave.

    Complicating matters is an apparent preference not to spend heavily on acquiring the next boss, which would be a problem for most people currently in management & possibly even for those who are not depending on the terms of their severance agreements with ex employers.

    Sources claim Allegri now has concerns about the quality of Arsenal’s squad and would rather wait until the summer to return to the dugout, yet the club are known to retain their fondness for him.

    It is thought that Rodgers is back in their thoughts and that tentative enquiries have been made, only for a clear message to be relayed that he is happy at Leicester and is going nowhere.

  3. Un na naai

    I just cannot believe we’ve splashed £40m to being Luiz to arsenal
    Someone wants fucking shooting for that one.

    I’d have started with a back 3 yesterday if I were Freddie
    If you aren’t playing pepe or Martinelli then it’s stupid to go with any other formation.
    It gets the best out our full backs, centre halves and strikers. No point mentioning midfield at the minute as whoever is selected right now as no cunt seems to want to use Torreira in the right position

  4. Pierre

    “Ndidi and Saliba would initially sort out our CBs.”

    To save you any further embarrassment, Ndidi is a midfield player not a CB

  5. Cesc Appeal

    Not expecting a transformation from Ljungberg but he can at least get selection right and try to get some balance into the side that way.

    No more Aubameyang and Lacazette together. It creates total imbalance and our side just isn’t equipped to do it (looking at central midfield and wide areas).

    Stop playing Xhaka as CDM…well just stop playing Xhaka. Give Torreira a go at CDM. He made 2 great interceptions against Norwich when he came on that could well be seen as just as game saving as Leno’s saves.

    Play Bellerin and Tierney. Always feel with Arsenal we like to keep our potential solutions to things in the background as a comfort or excuse thing. Play them and see what happens.

    Play Martinelli…for fuck sake play Martinelli.

    Play Pepe. His confidence must be on the floor right now.

    As for the club they need to have chosen their manager soon. If the manager is coming in before January he needs to be backed, regardless of January being a difficult buying month. That midfield needs a total change. If the manager is coming in the summer then plans need to be drawn up with them as soon as he’s chosen for changing this squad. Mustafi, Xhaka, Ozil, AMN, Torreira, Sokratis, one of Aubameyang or Lacazette…the list of people who should be sold for various reasons is huge.

  6. Pierre

    Why Ozil?The guy is a joke and liability.”

    Maybe because he created more chances the rest of the team put together.

    Both goals were due to his delicately flighted balls into the box.

    If we have 2 players in the team who continually lose possession and have only a 60% passing success ,this is obviously where the problem lies .

    But no, you stick to your silly Ozil agenda .

    He now has a manager who trusts his game and the team will reap the benefit in the coming weeks.

  7. kenyangunner

    I watched Pepe play for Cotedvoire in the AFCON and was not impressed at all.
    He is more suited for French league ,Japanese League or Saudi Arabia.
    He won’t make it in England but I hope am wrong.

  8. Pierre

    Freddie’s team selection for the Norwich game shows that he is a strong manager.

    He’s not stupid, he knows that fans are not keen on xhaka, mustafi , kolasinac and to a lesser extent Ozil.

    He went with the courage of his convictions and the team probably played as well in the first half hour than they have all season.

    Keown made the point that we are not engaging with the opposition on the break and this is a big problem as xhaka and Guendouzi are too slow to recover their position .

    Maybe the team is not fit enough as we continually run out of steam ,
    It’s that or we are not pacing our game.

  9. Pierre

    Freddie didn’t resolve the midfield problem , which was disappointing.

    Both their goals came through our full back ( chambers), xhaka and Guendouzi being ahead of the ball.

    We need to have at least have one DM sitting in front of the 2 centre backs and the full backs to remain disciplined , both goals were avoidable

  10. Leedsgunner

    Like it or not Özil is still a chance creator and we have two forwards who are clinical finishers on a normal day.

    No reason why if our defence and midfield wasn’t shot to pieces we couldn’t be in the top 4 comfortably.

    Our forwards aren’t the problem…

  11. Leedsgunner

    “We need to have at least have one DM sitting in front of the 2 centre backs and the full backs to remain disciplined , both goals were avoidable.”

    This is what Torreira does excellently. Let him do it!

  12. Cesc Appeal


    That leaves you with Lacazette as your main ST.

    That is a worry.

    That then relies on Pepe stepping up massively because Lacazette is not an elite level ST like Aubameyang. He won’t get you the same numbers.

    I’d far rather sell Lacazette…just not sure if there’s a market for him at £40 Million or more.

  13. Bob N16

    I hope Freddie will consider a front line of Martinelli, PEA and Pepe; Saka and Lacazette can come off the bench.

    Torreira has to play in the DM role, screening the back 4 and be told to stay there. Not much choice otherwise….

    Get Tiernay and Bellerin fit to play FB position. CB is the toughest call, anybody’s guess to know who are our best combination!

  14. CG

    Fred will fail and fail Big if his post match interview is anything to go by.

    Likeable guy – but not credible.

    Absolutely amazed he played Luiz.
    (Not worried about the other selections)

    Had an opportunity to drop him from the squad entirely but didn’t.

    We have serious trouble off the pitch (raul)
    And We have serious trouble on the pitch( luiz)

    Luiz is probably pound for pound the worst Signing Arsenal have ever made. Not just for his lack of footballing ability but his sheer toxicity.

    ( 40 million a huge outlay.)

    When other clubs see the team sheets an hour before the kick off- they know they are in with a real chance of victory if he is on it.

    I buy opposition goals every time he plays for us and win oodles.

  15. HighburyLegend

    “Freddie didn’t resolve the midfield problem , which was disappointing. ”

    We didn’t expect to watch him solve the big problem in 1 game, but see him picking Xhaka, Mustardi, Ozil or Luiz in the starting 11 was a freezing shower.

    During his time along Emery, was he sleeping ?? Ffs…

  16. Chika

    I hope Freddie has the courage to drop one of Laca/Auba. Playing both strikers ain’t working at all. I’d like to see Martinelli and Pepe on the wings.

    I think a 4-2-3-1 would serve us better.

  17. HighburyLegend

    “Arsenal in no rush to appoint new manager, says Josh Kroenke”

    Yeah right Josh, just wait for the relegation battle to come.

  18. CG

    High Leg

    “””And I’d like to win the lottery.””””

    I win it most weeks- when Luiz lollops onto the field.

  19. Guns of Hackney

    Now the dust has settled…that was utter shit.

    No formation, no combination of these players will work.

    I believe we will have to literally strip the squad and restart from zero. I’d be happy with mid table if it actually meant we were on the right path.

    Freddy was embarrassing yesterday. Almost 100% he phoned Arsene and asked “what team should I pick and shall I do the 70th min subs”?

    Shit fest.

  20. Leftsidesanch

    Nobody expects Arsenal to be solved in one game but you give yourself the best possible chance of a positive result by selecting your best players. Emery in his time here didn’t know his best 11. People act like Freddie is infallible because of his playing exploits at this club which is nonsense.

    Freddie wasn’t just thrown in cold at the deep end. He has been a part of Emery’s staff all season, presumably works with these players in training and has had a 1st hand view to our woes this year. So selecting Xhaka is who much maligned as it is but even more currently out of favour from recent events wasn’t clever. There’s a reason Mustafi stopped getting games. David Luiz is unbelievably horrific and Mesut Ozil… the less said the better. The only thing i could think was he wanted to count on experience yet these are the players that have let this side down badly and will continue to do so (without trying to sound like Neville and his whiny voice).

    Auba should not be shunted on the wing to accommodate for Lacazette who at the minute is getting more game time than his performances merit. I hope that he is a fast learner and sets up the team correctly for Thursday otherwise it’s likely further points get dropped. Substitutions should also be made with a view to changing the game in our favour and not for subs sake. Whatever the general feeling on Pepe is at present, you need to play him so he can build relationships and understanding on the pitch with his teammates and play him into confidence. £72million spent on him, we can’t afford for it to be money wasted.

  21. Leftsidesanch

    I would actually go 4-3-3 as that is a formation that Pepe could thrive in. We desperately need another source of goals in this team. Lacazette can only perform at the Emirates and Auba can’t score all of our goals alone.

  22. Tony

    It’s a risk I’d take if we can get £70 million plus a player where it was reported RM were offering James Rodriguez in the deal.

    That money buys us quality CB and MF . I think Martinelli can step up.

    Teemu could do a job for us as well as others mentioned on here.

    Maybe Edu can find us a South American ST.

    Without sorting the defense and midfield out we will continue to ship goals every game needlessly.

    Tbh I’d sell Laca as well to fund a Haaland type quality player..

    We don’t have many players we can cash in on and after another season I see Auba regressing, so maybe it’s prudent to sell him on now while he still can command a high price.

    Ozil, Mustafi and Xhaka will represent poor income for the club.

    I understand your thinking but we’re at the drastic times needing drastic measures stage with our current stats.

  23. Freddie Ljungberg

    Where is the 40m for Luiz numbers being bandied about coming from? Didn’t we pay something like 8m for him.

    With Holding and Bellerin injured and AMN not a footballer it was either Luiz or PapaSok at CB, Luiz edges it slightly by at least being able to pass the ball.

    Tactics/coaching or formations is not going to fix our defence or midfield although a proper lineup would have helped.

    Ship Xhaka, Torreira and Mustafi as a minimum requirement in January (Ozil, Sok, etc would be nice too) and focus on getting in 1 defensive CM and a top class CB if possible.

    Sangare and Upamecano would be my pick, would stop us getting bullied through the middle with our weak, slow players we have now.

  24. DivineSherlock

    If you seriously think last night was shit then you dont understand football . Simple. Under Emery we would’ve invited pressure. Last Night we had control of possession. Norwich managed 2 goals only on the counter. Under Emery we wouldve sit back and conceded shot after shot to that Norwich team.

  25. Graham62

    I’m convinced Freddie will change things against Brighton.

    He has asked the players to prove themselves. Look at Luiz. Shot by a sniper on Thursday against Frankfurt. Given the all clear to show his metal against Norwich and, he fails miserably. Has he proved himself?

    Pepe must play. I’m convinced this lad can come good. Let’s trust in Freddie for a few games and see how things develop. To be honest I’d prefer to see Holding and Chambers given a go centrally.

    Mental fatigue is evident in all the players. The past few weeks has seen performance levels drop as a consequence of this. When you don’t believe in what you’re doing, your mind (and body) will be affected. I’m afraid it’s inevitable.

    Brighton will be a tough game, as Liverpool found out. Let’s hope the players respond to playing at home and most of all, let’s trust in Freddie.

  26. HighburyLegend

    “I’m convinced Freddie will change things against Brighton.”

    It’s now or never for him, obviously.

  27. Emiratesstroller

    Let’s be realistic solutions to our current problems are not going to be resolved overnight and frankly I don’t think that material changes or outcomes will be achieved this season.

    We have an exceedingly poor defence which as some pundits pointed out has no potential for improvement or uplift.

    I have maintained all season that this is a TOTAL REBUILD JOB. No-one believes seriously that Messrs Luiz, Sokratis and Mustafi are the calibre of Centre Backs that should have been recruited at Arsenal.

    Similarly we have allowed our midfield also to fall into decline. Most of the players in this department are either lightweight or lacking in the quality needed to play at top level.

    My personal view is that Ljungberg is a stop gap head coach and will be retained until such time that we make a permanent appointment. Whoever
    comes in needs to be a fresh broom and with the personality and ability to
    change the dynamic of this team.

    Frankly I do not see any urgency to recruit someone before the end of season
    UNLESS it is our first preference.

    Realistically whoever manages the club this season is going to be faced with the same problem namely a squad unfit for purpose.

    The starting point of the process must be to sort out the Board bringing in people with energy and knowledge about contemporary football. The so-called senior management team needs also to be reassessed. Bluntly there
    have been some serious mistakes made under Raul Sanhelli’s stewardship.

    The Kroenke family need also to assess whether they have the financial resources and commitment to the club to put the house in order. Yes they
    have allowed a lot of money to be spent from our so-called reserves, but the
    question is whether they will dig into their own pocket?

    The hard facts are that we are going to need to spend a lot of money on our defence and midfield to put the house in order and somehow I do not see
    potential sales achieving this.

  28. Chika


    I agree with your submissions. We need a revamp and that’s exactly why I’d rather have us embark on a long term project, instead of an Ancelloti desperately trying to drag us back to top4.

    We need a coach that’s young, innovative and patient enough to steer us through a slow and steady rebuild.

    How many windows do fans think it will take us to overhaul the squad? We have an insane amount of players we need to ship out.

    In the interim, Freddie needs to get his starting eleven right

  29. Edu me a favour

    The biggest crime this past summer, was Raul not buying a world class cb.

    Looking at both emery and Freddie – it makes you think that , they play 7 defensive players because our defenders are so fucking poor. Our cb options have been so bad the last couple of seasons that rob holding suffering his Acl when he was starting to show promise , actually set us 3 steps back in that department. He’s come back and he is so far off of even showing promise that i don’t think it’s going to work out for him. Then we have luiz sok and Mustafi FML. These 3 are in the same bracket as stepanovs squillace and Cygan for me , fucking awful defenders – again , how was no due diligence done on luiz ? And don’t point to Sven Mislintat not being here because he brought in sok and Lichtsteiner. This teams priority should have been 2 stalwart cb’s of the highest order. Not a young up and coming player who we had to loan back.

    The luiz deal smacked of the Lichtsteiner process – trying to be clever , thinking a past it player from a top team would come in and do a job for us. WRONG

    Even the best defenders will make a mistake – but not in every single game they play , like ours. And it’s not just one mistake per game it’s multiple. Teemu Pukki has been shit for weeks – comes up against us and is made to look like some worldy , it’s pathetic. Todd Cantwell – been doing nothing for weeks ( I had both Norwich players in my fantasy team – wasted weeks on them only getting me 2 points a week ) again , season back on track for him , made to look like Raheem sterling when he’s nowhere near that level.

    This has been going on since wayyyyy back in the wenger days – why is this club so averse to buying proper defenders ?

    On to the Pepe debacle – how has this man come to Arsenal with such fragile confidence. We are 13 games into the season and his confidence was shot after the 5th game. Why are we paying £72 mill for such a weak minded player ? I pray he comes good , I want him to come good but man have we had a stinker there. What’s the scouting process ? Does it not involve a players mentality? Or is it all based on what you see on the pitch ?

  30. Graham62

    Over the years we have become Mercenaries FC.

    Players have come to the club to earn good money for doing fudge all. Where’s the desire and commitment?

    How can I, as a 58 year old armchair critic, see these things? How can I see simple tactical failings and yet we pay managers gross sums of money to NOT sort these things out? Jesus, it’s frustrating.

    Our owner and board are not fit for purpose. Eleven years of shite and it’s all come down to an ex-legend with no managerial experience digging us out of a hole. What a great club we have become.

    We have suits sitting in the stands who are more geared to cruising the streets of Chicago in the 1930’s. I mean this Raul geezer, who the hell is he and where did he come from? (I know, Barcalona).

    How do we attract so many undesirables?

    Yeh, welcome to Mercenaries FC.